Sunday, May 2, 2010

It's Official- the swearing in ceremony

Although flag day is technically more exciting for us, the big deal day for the government is the “Commissioning Ceremony”; this is where the new class of diplomatic officers are sworn into service by the secretary of state. Jacob’s class was fortunate enough to have Hillary Clinton, our secretary of state, come and perform the swearing in herself.

The ceremony began with several speeches about of how wonderful this class of officers is, and how talented and great they will be. Finally the secretary arrived and she gave a 10 minute speech regarding how important their role as diplomats are, and how crucial their jobs are to American policy. She also talked about how talented the class is and how difficult it is to be accepted into this elite rank in the government. Finally she recited the oath, and they were officially officers of the foreign service!

Washington, DC- Flag Day

Well we finally made it to DC, I’m sure you have all been wondering what happened to us? So I apologize for not writing this entry sooner, we’ve been enjoying the life in DC and Jacob has started training.

On Friday April 23rd, they had a ceremony they call “flag day.” It is the only time in their careers where they will receive their posting in a ceremony and it is celebrated. In the future they will be told where they are going via email.

Anyway, the ceremony is one of the more stressful things we’ve been to, as you have very little control over what you will receive, and it is 45 minutes of your life that determines the next 2 years of your life. They had several speakers talk about the class and then they proceeded to announce each country with its flag on the big screen. They would follow this up with the job this person would be holding and the name of the officer. They would present each officer with the flag of the country they were heading to, and a folder with their training schedule. After they had announced about half the class they finally announced “Gaborone, Botswana”, and stated that Jacob would be taking on this job. So the moment we have all been waiting for, well at least Jacob and I, has come and we are headed to Botswana in July!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Identity Theft Hot Potato

The FBI says Identity Theft is "the fastest growing white-collar crime in America."

Well, if you want to jump on that bandwagon, let me enlighten you on the best path forward:

1. Choose a state to steal personal information and data
2. When stealing said data, ensure you choose identities that reside in another state
3. Fraudulently represent identities in a third state

Police precincts in all states do not want to take your complaint

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Almost America

I think we need to come clean...we left America.

I love America, but it's hard for me to resist exotic Toronto and Montreal--although not exactly balmy this time of year. Admittedly, we had been planning to come through Canada since we embarked on the trip but still billed it as a Roadtrip Across America. How could we live with ourselves in this deceit? Well, it is a roadtrip across North America.

We began the diversion in the Northland with a brief stay on Lake Ontario. We looked longingly over the inland ocean (i.e. great lakes) at the twinkling lights of the homeland on the horizon.

I soon found myself feeling a little more foreign when the signs started changing to French as we entered Quebec. I think Amy found herself at home with a whole province of bilingual French/English speakers.

Our entertainment for the 20 hours in Montreal was playing "visiting parents" to our friend, who is a 3rd year law student at McGill. I've never been on the other end of a college visit; we enjoyed seeing the classrooms, cafeteria, study lounges, meeting friends, going to dinner and then saying goodnight and going back to our hotel. In the morning, our little student came to pick us up at the hotel after her class and we went to visit her house where she lives with 4 other girls.

I suppose it wasn't quite the same as a parental visit since we weren't constantly assessing if the tuition dollars were being well spent.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

At Home in the Heartland

Enough with the personal financial troubles of the last couple posts. We have certainly been a bit distracted by the responsibilities of life, but we are still making Eastward progress. We have made it across the Heartland of America—affectionately called the “land we fly over” by some of the folks who live on the coasts.

While we have been in the Midwest we have not climbed mountains or tasted wine or walked the footsteps of movie stars. The scenery is subtle with rolling hills of endless cornfields. The people are hospitable and enjoy a sane pace of life. It was a good breather from our hectic travel schedule and life in the big city.

For me it is also a return to family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, a nephew and my dad. In my intermittent visits during and since college, I have taken snapshots of life in the Midwest but have not lived there for nearly a decade. What strikes me while reflecting on the past 10 years is that despite the steadiness and routine of the Heartland, it is not exempt from the involuntary changes that come with the passing years of life. When my mom passed away two years ago this summer, it changed daily life for my dad and brother at home and has altered the dynamics of our family visits since then.

We will experience much of the inevitable change of life from afar while we are away in the Foreign Service. Potential change makes me appreciate the everyday life that we share with friends and relatives on our visits. While every day schedules may seem routine and unchanging, one day they will only be relived through fading memories. It is these everyday activities and moments of life that make the fabric we weave together to form our most lasting relationships. We have appreciated our time with all of you along the way and look forward to more memory making in the years to come.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ad Hoc, Compulsory Budget Reduction Fees

More than one state across the nation is in fiscal trouble, but their seemingly semi-random revenue generating activities can be frustrating. To cut through the verbosity, I got a speeding ticket. I hope it helps reduce Illinois’ raging deficit.

I suppose it doesn’t come as a surprise that we would meet a friendly State-trooper at some point in our journey, and I guess I should be happy we made it over 8,000 miles without handing over my license and registration. And I certainly can’t argue that I was speeding, but isn’t it frustrating to see those lights in your rearview mirror?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Who am I?

If you were hoping for some existential reflections, you’ll have to wait for a later date. Today my contemplations are about my legal identification.

My identity was stolen last week—credit cards opened in my name and our checking account drained of funds.

Although I will hopefully not have any lasting financial impact, my first few days of identify-theft remind me of coping with other tragedies like death. When someone else has a death of a family member or friend, I can be empathetic, but I do not know exactly how he is feeling, nor can I truly share his perspective. I always felt bad for folks that had their Social Security Numbers stolen, but never shared in their anguish.

I never before contemplated these burning questions: Who is this imposter? Does he even look anything like me? Is he at least good-looking? Why did he choose me? How did he get my information? Will he be caught? How can I ever rest easy about my identity security again?

Identity Theft is a very strange crime of which to be a victim. I happened to find out immediately due to fraud detection at my bank and a credit card. But the other new credit card I detected on my own by accessing my credit report. I could not have discovered the crime until well after it was committed.

These acts of fraud are a byproduct of our modern world. While my friends and family recognize my physical appearance and voice and know my character through our interactions, the rest of the world recognizes my SSN, address and driver’s license and knows my character through a compilation of recorded historical behaviors. It would be quite a feat (Mission Impossible worthy) to be an impostor in my personal life, but much easier to use my basic information to get credit in my name.

I hope my impostor had a fun weekend and enjoys his freedom before our legal system brings him to justice.